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Pawel Brodzinski on Software Project Management

Stakeholders Motivation

One of common mistakes we as project managers do is ignoring motivation of stakeholders. Yes, we manage them this way or another. We ask them what they want achieve, how they want to do that and so on. However we often omit very important question: what drives them?

Why it is so important you’d ask. Because misunderstanding stakeholders motivations leads to failure or, if you’re lucky, puts a project in jeopardy. Many of us work in environments where either office politics or personal interests play important role. That’s why most likely we don’t hear whole truth but only the part the other side think we should hear. Now if we don’t understand what happens under the hood we don’t have enough data to correctly interpret what we hear.

Think about your last project which went wrong. Think about stakeholders. Maybe they’ve changed their minds on some important aspects during the project? Or they weren’t happy when you delivered exactly what they have stated in requirements. Or their actions were inconsistent with what they were telling you. After finishing the work think about motivation of stakeholders. Can you see a change when you compare it to the moment when you begun the project? You should since now you have more pieces to put the whole picture together.

Most of the time I don’t try to imply anyone bad intentions but it doesn’t automatically mean everyone has good intentions. If you analyze stakeholders’ actions and you dig deep enough you can find some patterns, no matter if you like them or not. Then, next actions undertaken by stakeholders should be much more predictable thus you’ll have more tools to drive the project to success.

If you’re in minority and you work with honest and straightforward stakeholders forget what you’ve just read. And remember you’re lucky. Really lucky.

in: project management

4 comments… add one

  • ExecutiveBrief November 6, 2008, 2:42 am

    Stakeholder motivation and commitment are indeed crucial for any project success.
    In business, one can never downplay the importance of stakeholder commitment, as according to Stanford Research Institute definition “stakeholders are those groups without whose support the organization will cease to exist.”
    Some more good advice on how to get commitment from your stakeholders: http://www.executivebrief.com/article/commitment-phobia-why-stakeholder-commitment-is-important

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  • Lech November 10, 2008, 11:44 am

    I heatily agree, Pawel. It sure is important to figure out their intentions, hidden agendas and look out for resulting risks. Thanks for a healthy reminder!

  • Pawel Brodzinski November 11, 2008, 1:49 am

    I’m just after two weeks of dealing with wrong risks. We just made wrong assumptions about our stakeholders’ motivation. As a result we lost that time.

    If we’d managed to understand our stakeholders well we’d have been much furher with our efforts to straighten things out in the current project.

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